They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Look to the Rock From Which You Were Cut

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
    and who seek the LORD:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
    and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
look to Abraham, your father,
    and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
..
– Isaiah 51:1-2

Stone quarry overlooking Sephorris

While we were in Israel we spent every day doing a lot of walking in the land, following our rabbi and learning with our feet as we walked. One morning, we walked from Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, to Sephorris (also called Zippori), a much larger city built about the time of Jesus by Herod Antipas. As we were walking cross country between the two cities, a distance of about three miles, we were led to an ancient stone quarry. The rocks that were cut out of this quarry were almost certainly used to build Herod’s nearby city. The New Testament describes Jesus and His father’s occupation in the Greek as “tekton”, which in English means,” a craftsman who builds”. Most translations render this as “carpenter”, however, if you have been to Israel, there is not much wood to work with. Even today, almost everything is built out of stone. It is much more likely that Jesus and Joseph were stone masons and were craftsman in that occupation. If this was true, then the quarry that we were in could have been worked by these two men and their relatives from Nazareth as they helped build the nearby modern city of Sephorris.

While we walked through the quarry we learned how the stone masons used the natural fault lines in the limestone, iron chisels, and pieces of olive wood to take massive stones out of the bedrock. They would chisel a channel down into the rock and then fill it with olive wood stakes. The wood would then be soaked with water and allowed to expand. This would break the rock away from the quarry along the natural fault lines and the channels cut in the rock. These master craftsmen would then carefully chisel the stone to its correct shape to fit in its spot in the wall or building before transporting it to the job site. Many ideas have been proposed as to how they got these enormous stones – some weighing up to 100 tons – from the quarry to the job site and up on the wall, but no one knows for sure.

In Isaiah 51;1-2, God gives us the picture of His people all being cut from the same vast quarry. That quarry that we are cut from is our Jewish heritage! We all come from the same quarry as Abraham and Sarah, as well as the other famous Jewish forefathers, such as Isaac, Joseph, Moses Joshua, Deborah, David, Hezekiah Ruth, and the New Testament heroes like John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, John and others. Our roots are in our Jewish heritage and amazingly we are cut out of the same stones as they were! This picture of us all being cut out of the same rock is a powerful visual image and faith lesson. When we come out of the quarry, cut by the master craftsman, we are just a big ugly and useless stone. But in the hands of that master craftsman, He begins to chip and cut us into the shape that we need to be to fit into our place in God’s building. To be one of His disciples, you have to be willing to put yourself into the Master Tekton’s hand, with His hammer, chisel and saw, and let him shape you. It isn’t always nice or pretty and the chips and pieces fly as we are being fit for our spot in His plan for us. We have to be worked; the pieces aren’t just right and they need to be shaped. It often hurts when God is making us into the stone that He wants us to be! We love the Messiah part, we love being part of the building, but we don’t like the shaping and chiseling.

Now, look at Ephesians 2:19-22. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a Holy Temple in the Lord. In him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit”.

Also, listen to these words from 1 Peter 2: 4-5. “As you come to Him, the living stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house …”

In light of this image of the quarry and the stones, don’t these scriptures just jump off the page? Collectively, we are being built into the temple that God dwells in, by His spirit and He is constantly having to shape and chisel us to make us fit into His ultimate plan for us. We need to remember two things from this Isaiah passage and quarry story. One, if we are seeking righteousness and pursuing the Lord as Isaiah 51 says, then we need to look to our Jewish roots to find the answers to those questions. Secondly, we don’t have any excuse for not being what we ought to be. We have what it takes because we were cut out of the same quarry as those other great heroes of the faith. We have everything that we need to be a disciple of His. We just have to be willing to be faithful and diligent to do our part in the cutting and shaping process. Then we will fit exactly where the master craftsman intended us to fit and be that living stone that He intended for us to be.

More on the Third Test

Water from the Rock

Water from the Rock

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

— Exodus 17:1-7

I have previously written two lessons on the test at Rephidim so I will try not to duplicate the thoughts here. But, we learned more and more about this third test, so I wanted to write it down.

The Israelites, led by the cloud and pillar, set out from the wilderness of Sin and traveled from place to place. They camped at Rephidim; means “place of rest,” where I’m sure they expected to find water, but there was none. So, they got mad and grumbled (Kaveched) against Moses and said “Give us water to drink”! They had some pretty strong words against Moses and God, here. They stepped over the line into a much more delicate situation because now they are testing God! Unless you give us water, we want out! We don’t believe you, anymore. Vs. 7 says they said “Is the Lord among us or not?” We saw the cloud, we saw what you did in Egypt and the Red Sea and you said you’d go with us,” but now they are saying, we don’t believe you unless you show us! They are telling God, we won’t do our part unless you do yours and they raised their arm against God.

This obviously doesn’t sit well with God, but surprisingly, He doesn’t hit them with a lightning bolt! He has surprising patience with them, and does an amazing thing for them. He sends Moses on ahead to Mt. Sinai, which was probably at least a day’s walk and tells him to hit the mountain of God with his stick. He did not hit just some ordinary rock, he hit the mountain of God, as if God was saying, I’ll take the blow, I’ll take the hit for this one.” I’ll go ahead and send them water. The water ran down the ravine, a day or day and 1/2; back to the Israelite camp.

Some metaphors to apply to this story are:

  1. Life is moving from test to test
  2. Not every painful situation is a test
  3. In ea. test, seize the opportunity to show God how committed you are to Him. How deep is your commitment? Will you only commit, if he does His part first?
  4. Three times, He put Israel to the Test. Each time, some didn’t match up but for the most part they learned and grew.
  5. Testing has a purpose – like the birth of a child , or like an athlete training for a race or match-no pain, no gain.
  6. God seemed to punish the Hebrews for saying is God among us or not? , because the next story he lets the Amalekites attack them at Rephidim.